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UN commission for Western Asia opens annual session in Beirut

UN commission for Western Asia opens annual session in Beirut

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today told an annual gathering of West Asian economic and development leaders that exploring the root causes of conflict is the only sure way to build the foundations of enduring peace.

“This 22nd session of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia [ESCWA], takes place against a backdrop of turmoil and uncertainty, said the Secretary-General in a message delivered on his behalf today in Beirut by Mervat Tallawy, the group’s Executive Secretary.

“Indeed over the years, the consequences of war and civil strife have diverted the resources and energies of many ESCWA members away from their development objectives, and those of ESCWA itself away from its intended role,” he warned, adding that instead of helping the region to reap the fruits of peace and the dividends of development, ESCWA has often had to contend with addressing the aftermath of war.

Noting the timeliness of ESCWA’s decision to examine the effects of instability on socio-economic development in the region, Mr. Annan urged the group to go beyond assessing the devastating toll that conflict and instability take on a country's human, physical and financial resources, and beyond addressing post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation.

“I hope you will discuss ways to explore the root causes of conflict, which is the only way to build the foundations of enduring peace,” he said, “For the roots of conflict often lie in questions of governance, inequitable socio-economic development and uneven distribution of resources. It is here that the role of the United Nations, including that of ESCWA, can be especially valuable.”

In her own statement, Ms. Tallawy said that ESCWA had begun its four-day session on the region’s economic progress, at a time when “a dark cloud is covering the whole world, and the Arab region in particular.”

Ms. Tallawy said that the previous 1990-91 Gulf War in Iraq had been directly responsible for losses amounting to some $600 billion, while it is expected that, as a result of the current war against Iraq, those losses could increase to a trillion dollars. She added that between four and five million job opportunities had been lost following the previous Gulf War, a figure expected to rise to six to seven million jobs lost as a result of the current war.